The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones | Book Review

Thursday, 12 November 2020

I have a friend named Figbar who is quite awesome. (He has a store on Tee Public which can be found here.) He introduced me to an author by the name of Stephen Graham Jones who wrote a book called Mongrels. While that book, which he so kindly gifted me, is still on my TBR, I jumped at the chance to listen to Jones's newest book called The Only Good Indians. This book has been making the rounds on booktube and bookstagram so I figured I'd join the fun. What did I think? Here's my review.




First lets go over the premise. The Only Good Indians follows four Native American men (Blackfeet) who have known each other since childhood. When they were young men they made a mistake and years later that mistake has bread an entity bent on revenge for what the young men, now adults, did. 

This is a horror book so it's only natural to want to compare Stephen Graham Jones to the juggernaut that is Stephen King. I do compare the two, but not because of the chosen genre, but because of their mastery of the written word. I've never found King's work to be scary. I've never found books to be scary at all. But what has kept me going back to King time after time is his amazing way with words. Jones has an outstanding way with words as well, though he doesn't get as long winded as King can get. Also, I believe that Jones's book is scarier than anything King has ever written. That is to say, I actually felt a little tense reading The Only Good Indians while I never once felt anything close to fear while reading King. (Please don't misunderstand, I LOVE Stephen King. But it's just not scary)

I mentioned that Jones isn't as long winded as King can get and I find that this is both a bonus AND a place where this book could have been improved. It's a bonus in the sense that the story stayed on track. There wasn't a huge aside just to tell us the life story of some character that doesn't really matter (I'm looking at you IT). But there were times when I wanted more. 

Since this is a spoiler free review I won't go into too much detail, but I will say that there are three main acts for this book and near the end of each act, everything seems to speed up. It reads like Jones was just too excited to get to the next part so he left out bits a pieces just to jump to the end. If you've ever read one of my book reviews before you'll know that pacing is a big deal for me and unfortunately pacing was my main issue with this book. Characters jumped to conclusions or had quick reactions that seemed extreme and if there was supernatural encouragement to push them to these acts, then it wasn't made clear enough. It just came across like things went from fine to panic worthy in the blink of an eye.

But that aside, this was a great book. The pacing is my only real issue. The characters were all (mostly) likable and each had their own unique voice. This book was about four men, but there were good female characters as well. There was also social commentary placed throughout the book. Not as blatant as a character soapboxing, but it was still there for anyone who paid attention. All the social commentary revolved around the treatment of Native Americans which is a woefully underrepresented group in mainstream pop culture. The bonus is that Jones himself is a Blackfeet Native American making this is an own voices book so you can read this without the fear of cultural appropriation! 

Let me wrap this up by saying I loved this book even with the pacing issue. I believe if the end of each act was fleshed out a bit more this would be an amazing book but instead it has to settle for simply being great. I was sucked in from the very first moment until the very end. I listened to this as an audiobook that was narrated by Shaun Taylor-Corbett, an actor of Native American decent, who helped bring this work to life. If you're a fan or are interested in horror fiction, you should read this book. It's great.

Now if you'll excuse me I'll be picking up Mongrels now, which I should have done when Figbar gave it to me.

The Only Good Indians gets a 9 out of 11


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